Using a Travel Agent – Is It Worth It?
(Editor’s note: The RichmondHUB.ca thanks Lise Hodgson for a timely article on travel planning. I have often wondered whether I would receive value for money using an agent given all the ways you can book travel directly with the internet today. This article answers a lot of my questions! We have a lot of talented people and local businesses in our community at your service! Look for more travel advice from Lise in future articles.)
Using a travel professional and why:
I am a meeting and travel professional with over 20 years experience. I love doing what I do because it helps me to share my knowledge and experience with others.
People always ask: “Why should I use a travel agent?”
Travel professionals are exactly what their titles say: “Professionals”. They work for you, their clients. They work on commission from the supplier and 99% of the time it doesn’t cost you extra to book through them. In fact, you get more value for your money as most companies have group bookings, where the price is cheaper, plus you get additional perks. As well, they often know of sales before they are released to the public.
Here are a few valid reasons to book with a travel professional:
- Experience and Knowledge – buying travel is a unique experience because you are buying both a product and a service. A travel professional knows the market and will find something that best meets your needs, better than what you can find on the internet. There is a difference between travel inspiration and actual travel desires. Destinations may look good on TV but not actually be ideal for you personally. Travel agents can help you define what it is you want.
- Advocate – If something goes wrong a good travel agent will go to bat for you, no matter who is at fault. Everyone has experienced a flight that has left late/been delayed and they are going to miss their connection. Instead of standing in line at the airport with the 300 other passengers trying to find another flight/getting a hotel room, your travel agent can be working on this for you while you are in the air. Remember to send them a quick note that your flight was delayed, and you need help for your next leg.
- Longer Reach – Travel agents have access to tools/suppliers that the average consumer does not have. They sometimes can get you a better flight, upgrade, added amenities and additional on-board credit
- Personal Shopper at no extra cost – Your time is valuable, and you shouldn’t have to spend it searching for the right vacation. A travel agent can do that for you. They can match you with the vacation that you actually want and not the one that you saw on television.
- Travel professionals save you money – Often, the travel professional can save you money based on their relationship with the supplier or at least match the price. Often there are hidden fees when looking online, or missing components of your trip, making the trip look cheaper. Imagine arriving at the airport at 2:00am and no transfer to your resort! Not fun!
- Relationship – as you continue to work with the same professional, they will send you ideas/specials for trips before you even ask. They often receive specials, new itineraries before they are released to the public.
- Extras – Ever wonder why the couple in the next cabin got champagne with strawberries dipped in chocolate, or that couple received that room on the top floor with the beautiful view? They probably used a travel agent.
- Insider Information – Travel professionals know the best times and best places to travel. They sometimes know where the next best place to travel are before the rest of the world. Want to be the first in line with the view? Don’t want to be at a resort during a European march break? Use a travel professional!
- Exclusivity – Some tours and experiences are only available through a travel agent. Many companies customize for the product to make sure the traveler gets what they want. Exotic tours and adventures, and private transportation are often only available through an agent.
- Travel agents are just awesome– remember they work for you. They will go out of their way to make sure you have the best experience on your trip. Their knowledge is key.
Not everyone wants to book with a travel agent and like to do their own thing. Some even get information from the travel agent, and book directly with the supplier. But remember, we cannot “go to bat” for you if something goes wrong.
Oh, and one last note, if you want to book on your own, make sure whatever/whoever you use is TICO certified. They are your watchdog! Visit their website, there is a lot of useful information you can find there www.tico.ca/ .
If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to send me a message.
Lise Hodgson, CMP